Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hemingway's beach

     Have you ever stopped at a place that was eerily familiar? Not in a disturbing way, but one of those strange memories that are in the back of your brain. While taking photographs for my guide book, I stopped in Horton's Bay near Lake Charlevoix to snap a shot of the general store there. It's where a young Ernest Hemingway hung out in his teenage years when he wanted to get away from home. It was his version of going to the mall. Something guided me across the road and down a small trail to the lake, and when I got there, Hemingway stories I'd read years ago came flooding back to me. The story is "Up Michigan," and the beach and dock play a central role in the drama. They still look pretty much like they did when Hemingway's characters were there.

Monday, August 26, 2013

That's when they had real winters in the U.P.

     The Farmer's Almanac is predicting a tougher than normal winter for the Great Lakes, colder, more snow. I just hope the giant railroad snow plow, left, isn't needed again. It sits in Calumet, unused for many years, a reminder of how brutal U.P. winters can get. For more information on the Almanac's prediction, go to www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/08/25/215489392/if-you-believe-the-farmers-almanac-get-a-good-coat?ft=1&f=1001

Friday, August 16, 2013

Mystery buildings near the tracks

      One of my favorite pursuits when traveling through small towns, especially in the U.P., is to get off the main road and find the old commercial buildings near the rail road tracks.
     I can often identify what they were used for, warehouses, railroad depots, but many times I can't. I just call them mystery buildings.
     The one, at left, is near the tracks in Newberry. Because of the town's lumber past, I suspect it could have been a mill or storage building for timber waiting to be shipped via rail.
   The photo, below, was taken in Marquette and looks like a similar building, but I suspect it could be mining related.
     If any readers can tell me what they are, I'd appreciate it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Misty sky over Lake Superior

     I'm yearning for a few days of blue skies. It seems like we've been hanging out under a mist for about a month now. The sun can come back anytime it wants. We'll see enough gray soon enough this fall.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dream home on Lake Superior

     When you use the term dream home, it conjures up an image of a mansion in an upscale suburb or a sprawling summer home on Lake Michigan.
     But in my mind, images of cabins I've seen in my travels through Michigan come to mind. The one at left is a favorite, it's near Grand Marais in the Upper Peninsula and is on Lake Superior. Travelers can rent one of these at Sunset Cabins. However, they are usually booked a year ahead.
     And for good reason. The big lake is a short walk, and the inside are all hand built and wood. They match their setting.
     In my travel guide, Michigan: An Explorer's Guide, I go to great pains to find cabins like this and list them. We can all find the big motel chains, but not these hidden gems.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Lake of the Clouds hideout

     Chances are many people will recognize this photo, its of the Lake of the Clouds and is in the Porcupine Wilderness State Park. It has often been used on promotional material for Michigan, including state maps. The 60,000 acre park is one of the largest wilderness areas in the Midwest. There are camp sites near roads and there is back country camping, but one of the best options is to rent a back country cabin or yurt to stay in. There's even a cabin on the Lake of the Clouds. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov//documents/dnr/Porkiescabinprogram08_259497_7.pdf

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Isle Royale moose

     Isle Royale Nation Park in Lake Superior is one of the best places in Michigan to see moose. The 50-mile long island has a rocky shoreline, and off it are other islands to which moose often swim to feed.
     There are no roads on the island, and it's mostly visited by backpackers and paddlers. Seeing the island via kayak is the best way to explore its coast line. But it's not a trip to be made alone. Groups often travel together.
     This week and next are the peak season, and trips there are often more pleasant in mid to late August, and even into early September. There are fewer people and bugs.
     One tip, don't bother the moose. I snapped the picture at left of a female who was eyeing me distrustfully. She had reason. Kids at the campground we were staying at had been bothering her and her calf, and shortly after the picture was taken, she and her young bolted and fled into Lake Superior. You don't want to get caught in front of a charging moose. For more information, go to www.nps.gov/isro/index.htm. A boat from Copper Harbor makes daily trips to the island and another from Houghton/Hancock makes regular trips. There's extensive information about visiting Isle Royale in my book, Michigan: An Explorer's Guide.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Free range chickens bring back memories

Jeff Counts feeding chickens, age 4.
     Like others, I've seen the acres of empty lots in Detroit working themselves back to grasslands, and it made me remember times spent in the rural South during the 1950s, when people lived off their own chickens, pigs and produce. All at their door step.
     It made me wonder with all sorts of people on food stamps in the city, why don't people start raising their own chickens.    
     Raising chickens in backyards is becoming trendy again as people get more interested in local food and where it comes from. In hip Ann Arbor a resident has been challenging city ordinances against chicken raising, and in one of my favorite TV shows, "Duck Dynasty" one of the Robertsons is in trouble with his upscale neighborhood association for having chickens running around on his place.
     I'm all for this new trend, and think we should go back to our country roots and produce our own food. Whole Foods has made a fortune by doing what my grandparents in Arkansas did for their entire lives. A Sunday chicken dinner simply meant a walk to the coop with an ax to to cut off the head of what country people called a "hen."
     I remember those days well. Pre-dawn trips to the hen house with my grandmother, her with flashlight in hand. She'd gently nudge the hen off its nest and pluck the fresh eggs out for breakfast.
     These days neighbors would object, but I loved the earthy smells of the chicken coop, and loved to feed them. I can still remember 60 years later how the chickens gathered around me.
     As for vegetables, it was a short walk to the garden, where there was fresh corn, tomatoes, okra, big purple onions, and green peppers. The produce had only the chemicals you put on them, and you weren't left to guess. And you didn't have to start up the car for a trip to the store.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Old school resorts in the U.P.

Deer Park General store. 
The eastern Upper Peninsula is home to two older style resorts that bring back memories of childhood vacations from the past. Simple cabins and a beach nearby.  At night there were camp fires and marsh mellow roasts. Those pleasures have been lost in our era of electronic devices and non-stop entertainment.
     To recapture the past, check out Deer Park Lodge (906-658-3341; deerparklodge.typepad.com ), 29209 County Rd. 401, Newberry.  The one and two-bedroom cabins are on Muskallonge Lake and have the use of a shallow, sandy beach. Since it’s an inland lake, the waters are much warmer than those of nearby Lake Superior. The rooms are reminiscent of simple wooden cabins of the 1940s, and they’re furnished with basic cooking utensils. There are no television sets, and cell phone service can be sketchy, so a traveler can really get away.
     The lake is dominated by the Muskallonge State Park, and doesn’t get much traffic, apart from fishing boats. There are small motorboats available. Bringing a canoe or kayak would be a good idea, as the water is shallow, and day trips on the water would give the kids something extra to do.
     The owners, Mick and Monica Brown, are friendly and like to share local history with visitors. They have an anchor from the 1880s that was recovered from the lake and thought to come from a fishing boat. The couple also runs the Deer Park General Store near the cabins, which can pretty much fill the needs of guests. The nearest other stores are about 20 miles away in Newberry.
Cabins at Deer Park.
     There is plenty to see and do nearby. The agate beaches of Lake Superior are just north of the cabins along H 58. Agate hunting on U.P. beaches is a regular activity for Michigan residents. The rocks are hard and colorful. Many people polish them. Tahquamenon Falls State Park is about 43 miles away, making it a day trip. The falls are a top U.P. travel destination. The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, another top attraction, is 54 miles via H 58, which runs along Lake Superior.
     Just about due south on Lake Michigan are the Hog Island Country Store & Cottages (906-477-9995; www.hogislandcottages.com), W8294 US 2, Naubinway. The focus is on the Lake Michigan shoreline, which is just a short walk. The one – three bedroom cabins date to the 1940s and are simple and clean. The kitchens are furnished with basic utensils and each has a fire pit. There are television sets, but who needs them. The beach is sandy and the water warm. By
Hog Island Country Store. 
standards, the rooms are a bit cramped, but travelers are here to get outside.
     The hosts here are Tom and Sandy Jacobs and can be found on most days manning the Hog Island Country Store, where they sell homemade jams and jellies, smoked fish and pasties. There’s also coffee for those on the road.

     The town of Naubinway is about nine miles east of Hog Island. The town is home to an active fishing fleet, and there are several markets selling fresh fish. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

M 22 wine tasting room

     M 22 running along Lake Michigan from Manistee to Northport and then south to Traverse City is one of the best drives in the state. There's plenty to see and do, including visiting the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.
   But it's also creating a commercial buzz, with M 22 stickers for vehicles, and even one group of business people who wanted to commercialize the route number so much so that they wanted to copy write the name. Thankfully, Michigan's attorney general ruled that M 22 belongs to the state and its residents, paving the way for all to use the name.
     This summer I drove the entire route again, and found this delightful sign and flag in Glen Arbor at the M 22 wine tasting room. It's worth a stop.